Travel Special: Japan (Post 3 of 3)
Along our trek through Tokyo and Kyoto, everywhere we ate was excellent, from the street ice cream vendor to the five star Shiba Tofuya Ukai in the shadow of the the Tokyo Tower. Above all else though was how every plate was presented. It was one master piece after another.
Two things that really hit home while we were there. #1: No one is better than the Japanese when it comes to making things cute. Cuteness is more than pastime, it just might be their obsession. #2: They take their sweet Azuki beans very seriously. For instance, take that cute (there’s that cuteness again) little green guy up there. Yep, filled with the sweet red bean paste, covered in green sudo sweet pliable glutinous rice dough. Cute, yes… tasty? Not so much.
But the pastries… oh la la!!!
And this one! They don’t look real, do they?
Sadaharu Aoki is a Japanese chef that is renown for taking traditional Japanese flavors like green tea, azuki bean, rice, ginger, and even soy and melding them with intricate French pastry techniques. He creates perfect fusions of the best of what is Japanese and French.
Of all the places we ate my two favorites were Shiba Tofuya Ukai and Komen’s in Harajuku. The 5 star Sheba Tofuya Ukai was originally a brewery built 200 years ago and relocated to the heart of Tokyo.
The restaurant wraps around an exquisite traditional Japanese garden with private dining rooms showcasing different views through giant windows. By the way, the picture right up there is the only picture I’ve taken off of the internet. We went here our first night and we were so jet lagged all of our pictures turned blurry or of our feet or a close up of my aunt’s nostrils. However, by the time the food came around, I was lucky enough to have the wits to snap these red plate pictures with my iPhone.
My other favorite, Komen’s, is a ramen chain. But don’t let that throw you. They know ramen!
Oh, man. What I would give to stick my face in that right now. Hmmm… I think I’ll whip up a batch of this tonight for dinner. No worries, I’ll include the recipe below. It’s not exactly what we had at Komen’s but it’s close.
If you get over there, it’s right off the main Harajuku drag across the street from TGIF. That was probably one of the coolest things about Tokyo was how the old world and the traditional over lapped into the Western and the contemporary. Sometimes strange and bizarre, sometimes beautiful and exotic, but always fascinating. Take for instance, this guy…
I’d give anything to see one of these show up in a Chopped basket.
Let’s talk prices. Holy mackerel, there is some pricey fruit in Japan. The Yen traded about 100 to 1 USD so the cantaloupe was…
only a mere $75!
And these grapes…
About $43 for a pound. Any why? For one, they are grown in Japan and space is scarce, but it’s more than that. These specialty items are hydroponically grown in special green houses. As the young fruit starts to show, they hand select they very best and cut away all but the one showing the most promise to be perfect. Then they cover the fruit with a light protective paper umbrella and care for it personally every day. And from what I hear, they burst with flavor and sweetness like no other. No, we didn’t buy any. My inner frugal tightwad was too much in shock. But next time, I’m putting it in the budget!
Thank you for coming along with me this week and letting me share our trip to Japan with you. One last thing I’d like to share with you is one of my absolutely favorite culinary short films. In fact, this 3 minute culinary film noire was a major inspiration for this blog. I get goosebumps every time I watch it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. And if you have Amazon on “speed dial” like I do or you have access to a good Asian grocer try the recipe below for Spicy Sesame Ramen. It’s a close as you can get to Komen’s without jumping on the next flight to Tokyo. Itadakimasu! (Phonetically: Eat-a-Duck-E-ma-su; Literally: I humbly receive. Loosely: Good eating!)